You asked for it! A cheesy, healthy-alternative to the traditional mac n' cheese! I personally fell in love with this recipe a few years ago when I decided I should probably eat more veggies. This recipe was perfect for a healthy start. It added some vegetables and still gave me that great, home-made taste of traditional macaroni and cheese. The real credit to this recipe is Ellie Krieger, although I've made a few changes (which means, I add extra cheese). You can find her full recipe on the Food Network website as Macaroni and 4 Cheeses. As you'll see, I've altered my recipe just a tad. ;)
My favorite healthier macaroni and cheese (without the bread crumbs...)
(Photo by author)
This is definitely the best with bread crumbs. Unfortunately, for this entry, I forgot to purchase bread crumbs with all the other ingredients. Other than that, the recipe calls for frozen pureed squash. This is the quick and easy way to add squash to the recipe, but you can also buy your favorite local squash, roast, and puree. Then add it to the warmed milk. When squash is not in season, I buy the frozen pureed squash, heat them up slightly in the microwave first, and then add to warming milk. This makes the melting process go faster. :) I hope you enjoy!
(aka Pureed Squash Macaroni N' Cheese)
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
1 bag of shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar
1 bag of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, Jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.
4. Combine bread crumbs and shredded Parmesan in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. Then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.
Wine Pairing: Chardonnay
2008 Chardonnay by Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery(Photo by author)
My favorite pick for this meal goes to Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery in Pennsylvania. Although mac and cheese can be paired with some heavy reds like Cabernet and Malbec, don't underestimate the power a good, slightly oaky to non-oaked Chardonnay. For me, this is the one meal where I appreciate a good Chardonnay. Briar Valley produces a medium bodied, oaky, and crisp Chardonnay with light citrus and toasty flavors. It's perfect for this cheesy pasta dish as it has enough acid and green apple character to carry it with the rich cheese of the pasta.
Not up for a Pennsylvania wine? A good second hitter for me is Clos du Bois Central Coast Chardonnay, which definitely exhibits a more buttery and oaky nose. If I had to have a Chardonnay with those attributes, I'd probably pick up this one for less than $15. The creamy flavors and viscous body should be rather chewy with such a rich and cheesy meal. :)
(Photo from Google Images)
Need something with less oak and more crisp? I'd try one of my personal favorites: Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay. It's one of the few Napa Valley Chardonnays where I can feel the acid and taste the fresh floral, grass, apple, and citrus flavors. With a refreshing mineralty and creamy sur lie character, I very much enjoy this wine as well. It's a little pricier than the above two, but very enjoyable.
(Photo from Google Images)